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Metrical Claims and Poetic Experiences: Klopstock, Nietzsche, Grünbein

December 3, 2018 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Diagram of 3 wavy lines labeled "figure 1" through "figure 3" intended to depict different measurements of syllable durations made by "linking the kymograph to the lips."
Image: Diagram courtesy of Ernst Brücke, The Physiological Basis of German Verse (1871), p.33.

Monday Seminar:

Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge

Resident Fellow (2018-2019)

German, Nordic, and Slavic, UW-Madison


Why should we care about patterns of syllables in poems—that is, about meter? Is there any reason to study the rules that poets, theorists, philosophers, and critics have given for making such patterns, or their arguments about what meter can do? Or should we just enjoy poems and their patterns without worrying about how they work? My current project argues that paying attention to meter can help us understand how language works—as it is used by individuals who learn it in a particular culture that shapes universal characteristics of human beings. That is, meter in poetry can illuminate the interplay between language, culture, and the body. I discuss some approaches to these problems in authors from three centuries before zooming in on the metrical theories of the 19th century, a time when the very questions of who can or should study meters of which cultures in what ways were up for debate, showing just how deeply metrical theory is and was tied to questions of cultural politics and aesthetic value.


Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge is Associate Professor of German in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She works on German literature and culture from the 18th to 20th centuries, with a focus on lyric poetry, philosophy and literature, and the interactions between sound and text. Her first book, Lyric Orientations: Hölderlin, Rilke, and the Poetics of Community appeared in Cornell University Press’s Signale series in 2015, and she has published articles on Hölderlin, Rilke, Cavell, Wittgenstein, Klopstock, Nietzsche, and Grünbein. She is currently working on a book project on metrical theory and practice in Klopstock, Nietszche, and Grünbein.


December 3, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States